I think there is a causal link between nominalism/conceptualism epistemology and voluntarism. Nominalism/conceptualism consider ideas in our minds as the source of concepts rather then real essences in things in the world outside our minds, as moderate realism believes. Voluntarism is the philosophical doctrine that the will is a fundamental or dominant factor in the individual or the universe. I believe this doctrine came from a percieved reduction in the range of reason starting with nominalist and conceptualist epistemology. Moderate realism believes humans know universal essences from an immaterial power in the intellect in the soul. This is the first act of the mind, abstraction. This is followed by the 2nd and 3rd acts of the mind using these universal concepts in the acts of reason. Nominalism denies the existence of universal concepts by which we know real essences, rather nominalism believes these are just collections of things we assign names to. I think nominalism and conceptualism lead to the denial of realist metaphysics which is asserts that change is real in the world, that there are such things as potentiality and actuality of things. Actuality is the existence and act of the potentiality powers and nature of a thing. Metaphysical realities are transcendental qualities of a thing such as goodness, beauty, truth, the four cause of things (final,formal,efficient and effective causes) and other essential real concepts. Voluntarism rise when the role of the intellect in decisions is lowered. One of the most extreme examples of this is Nietzche’s will to power, which is an important principle of his approach to governing the world. In these days there is a humanism which has become a religion of humanity which demands a false moralism that believes that there is nothing higher than the human to search for in being human. This leaves the intellect as a less important power then the will in choices, in my opinion. Thus we are left with a voluntaristic approach to philosophy and a relativistic approach.
I have added an essay on Aristotle’s search for the causes of being. Aristotle conducted a scientific search for the cause(s) of being. He ifdentified four main causes of material beings: final (the extrinsic purpose), formal (the internal form), efficient (the extrinsic agent that actualizes the possibility of the thing – if the thing could realize itself it would never remain a possibility) and material causes (the intrinsic passive, determinable principle, the principle of limitation without which the form could not be realized. The breakthrough key to Aristotle’s search was one of the modes of being called substance, which is an all beings that exist in their own right (ex. man) as opposed to depending on a substance for their being (man’s color is an accidental mode of being).
I posted a new essay on the question “Is Society Composed of Individuals or Persons” in the context of the nominalist philosopher John Locke’s influence in the Founding Documents of the US and the US legal system. Locke’s influence results in an individualistic view of rights in the US without a corresponding balance of duties related to these rights and a decline in the influence of natural law thinking in decisions on rights in the courts and legislatation. Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon’s book Rights Talk is referenced extensively in the essay, especially regarding John Locke’s influence and the history of the understanding of rights in the US.
A lecture on the question “Is the moderate realism of Aquinas a better approach to understanding the world around us than Ockham’s nominalism?” is now posted under the lecture tab. It includes the audio, text for each slide in the Powerpoint and the Powepoint itself. I hope you enjoy it and I eagerly look forward to any comments and discusion you may have on the lecture. Just click on the lecture menu option at the top right of the page for instructions and the links to the lecture.
The specific question to be considered over the next few months is: “Is the moderate epistemological realism of Aquinas a better approach to understanding the world around us than Ockham’s nominalism?”. I will be preparing a lecture on this topic that I will post as a Powerpoint, WMV file recording and a transcript of the lecture. Your comments and suggestions are invited and will be much appreciated.